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Communion Presbyterian Church ARP

What's the Reason for Doubting?

*Act 1 = Attempt to be noble

 

I’ve been pretty philosophical lateley in our series, ‘What’s the Reason?’  We are here to proclaim God’s Word.  But sometimes we need to lay some foundation before we can truly appreciate how reasonable the Scriptures are.  And if there has ever been a popular defense against the Christian message it has simply been the phrase, “I doubt it!”  “I doubt that is true.”  “I doubt that applies to me.”

 

Well, let’s first admit that doubting is a matter of the human condition.  We should have a healthy doubt about advertising and politicians and even preachers.  Since people are constantly trying to persuade us to believe certain things – knowing that belief leads to action – we should doubt some reports in order that we don’t end up regretting doing something we really don’t want to do. (Who needs more excersise equip?)

 

As a minister, I have had some honest conversations with people who told me that they regretted attending the church service where, as a result of the preacher’s sermon, they felt compelled to walk forward and pray to become a Christian.  I’ve spoken with people who looked back in retrospect, and felt that they had simply been emotionally manipulated – because they weren’t Christians anymore. 

 

We also know that there are certain groups who raise their children in a way that could be described as “brain washing.”  Shouldn’t we actually train our children how to properly doubt so they won’t be susceptible to such techniques?

 

Well, I’d like to admit to you today that I’m a skeptical doubter!  I don’t believe the opinions of a host of scholars, lawyers, scientists, economists, journalists, politicians or preachers!

 

Now having said that, this doesn’t mean that I don’t listen to what “authorities” have to say.  It’s just that I already have a pretty firm conviction about core beliefs, and I think these views have a greater authority, and have the epistemic power to trump all competitors (did I say I’ve been pretty philosophical lately?)

 

HOWEVER, there are also lots of debatable matters that are not a part of my core convictions.   Therefore – on some issues, I just don’t know whom I should believe.  But I don’t give up on the project of being informed!  I catalogue as much information as I can and try to appreciate the best arguments of each perspective and hopefully one day, I will be more persuaded toward the correct view.

 

But on the CORE matters, I think the facts are pretty plain.  God created this world – everything we see, everything we can’t.  I am here to glorify Him and to enjoy Him forever.  The Bible teaches that God saves his people through a Redeemer, Jesus Christ – all of the Bible preaches this truth!  On these matters, I’m unequivable.

 

But I also believe that I have yet to learn a lot more about a lot more, so I’m willing to say that I am open to new information.  Some things that I had convictions about in the past have changed today, I may change again when the arguments and debate seem convincing to do so.

 

All of this to say that I am very open to removing doubts about what I presently believe.  For example, It’s wrong to believe that every salesman is trying to swindle me – that is called prejudice.  I should doubt my prejudice and be open to a salesman surprising me.  I should also be open to learning and researching ultimate and eternal truths.

 

When a person hears a truth about the Christian faith and wonders, “Should I believe that?”  I pray that they will avoid the prejudices they may have, and research the claims, ask honest questions, and be prepared to accept what is true.

 

The Bible calls this “noble.”  To actually seek, ask, and knock for the truth.  In Acts chapter 17, a missionary named Paul came to a town called Berea.  He enters a Jewish synagogue and begins to preach from the Hebrew scriptures, and he brings a new interpretation of those scriptures, something never preached there before.  The default response to a brand new preaching should be skepticism, doubt, and rejection.  But the folks in Berea were different Acts 17:11 …they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

 

The point being that even skeptics and doubters should attempt to be noble.  Examine the evidence to see if the claims hold up!  This is the kind of action we should all take when weighing the truth.  And if we are not sure that we have the truth yet – be open to God doing what he promised for those who ask, seek and knock.  God will present a gift, God will reveal the truth, and God will open a door through which to walk!.

 

**Act 2 = “I think! Therfore, I am.”

 

Doubting is powerful!  It makes the doubter a philosophical authority.  The doubter can hear any bit of information and casually say, “I doubt that is completely true.”  That’s a great statement because does anyone really know anything truly / completely? 

 

What is truth?  The best we can hope for is approximations!  Why? Because philosophers have taught us to doubt!  We should doubt our 5 senses, doubt that eyewitnesses can get it right, doubt our own intuition, even doubt that language means anything at all – so therefore, the philosophical culture, which bleeds into popular culture, wants us to embrace the philosophy of “meaninglessness.”

 

We should doubt that we even mean anything, we should probably doubt that we even exist!  We could all be fooled by a terrible mind trick like the Matrix!

 

The philosopher Renee Descart attempted to refute this project by saying, “Wait a minute, if I’m doubting, my doubts must be coming from somewhere / from somewhere able to think -- and if that somewhere or someone thinks, it HAS to exist… “I think! Therefore, I am.  I exist!” 

 

But today the culture responds – ‘Who cares!  You’re a time conscious, geographically cultural, product of prejudice – we doubt that you can even think properly.’

 

This is, in the end, an attack!  An attack on reason, and therefore an attack on God!  Why do I say this?  Well, God spoke everything into existence and gives everything meaning and value.  Trying to doubt everything is, in actuality, an attempt to reject that which is real and reflects God’s power and created order. 

 

It’s the kind of attack that denies we are significant and knowable and capable of performing truly noble things.  That we can, with God’s voice declare certain activities ‘good,’  and that we can manage and steward the world with Biblical values, and that we can be fruitful in our work and in our worship.

 

Who would doubt, who would attack, the Creator of defined purposes? Who would dare ask the question, “Did God really say?…

 

The only thing doubters never seem to doubt, is their doubts.  In their doubting, they sit in judgment upon the voice of God declaring that they have an alternative truth, and way, and life to live.  They bring a new agenda to the court of public opinion which accuses God of being a tyrant manipulator!  But shouldn’t we doubt the doubters?  Do we really want to live under the false God they create by doubting?

 

Let’s try this as a spiritual discipline.  When tempted to doubt, doubt your doubts and actually believe that God’s word makes sense in this world and is positively true with eternal implications.  He has risen!

 

***Act 3 = Description of Dinosaurs

 

I doubt the Israelis will strike Iran!  I doubt that the Bible is true!  Are these the same kind of doubts?  It actually depends upon who you are!  If you are an Israeli cabinet member doubting a military strike, you probably have access to information that might sustain your doubts (which is really a belief in a degree of certainty).  If you doubt the Bible is true and you have not accessed any Biblical research, then your doubts (which is really a belief in preference) is really a smokescreen for not considering the evidence.

 

Now of course, there are some well educated people who are expert in their research of Biblical Studies, some of these completely disregard certain claims made in the Bible – And I can respect the scholarship, and I’d like to enter into dialogue and debate!  But to doubt ALL of what the Bible reports, even as an unbelieving Biblical Scholar, would be a very  unique bird among those who study in this field. 

There are just too many references to places, people, events, geography, history, literature, zoology – there are so many references to so many other disciplines of study listed in the Bible that we have to conclude that whatever the Bible is, it is certainly connected to earthly and “researchable” realities. 

 

When the book of Ecclesiastes describes the hydrological cycle well before modern science defined the mechanism – hey you have to give it props.  When the book of Job describes a few animals that seem to be the description of dinosaurs, you have to at least attempt some explanation of what the observer describes, or at least critique the genre…

 

But to totally doubt every aspect of what the Bible teaches simply because it is convenient to avoid research and reflection – is worse than lazy, it’s actively supressing truth, and refusing to confront the testimony of the Bible in order to choose a lifestyle which is inherently known to be condemned by the Bible

-- I wonder if you will doubt my allegation?

 

**** Act 4 = That belief lead to action!

 

Here’s the RevKtranslation, Romans 4:18 = For Abraham hoped -- against hope -- believing that he would become the Father of many nations, just as it was spoken to him, “This is what will happen to your seed.”  And he did not become weak in faith, though he considered his body as good as dead, his own body being 100 years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.  But with the promise of God, he did not doubt with unbelief, But strengthened with faith, having given glory to God, even fully convinced so that the promise became powerful and productive (or shall I say reproductive?) Therefore, he was declared righteousness.

 

Here is a passage that describes a man and a woman who had every right to doubt the promise of God…

 

Abraham longed to have a son.  He had hoped for several decades to have a son.  But then, there came a day when hope found a resting place in reality.  Now, 100 year old men do not have babies with 90 year old women! That is just a fact of life!  But one day, God came to Abraham and made him a promise, a promise to have a son, and with that promise was the implicit command, “Don’t doubt your bodies just yet, there is still power in your seed.”

 

That’s sort of an interesting line for a 100 year old man attempting to convince his 90 year old wife they should be together, “God told me we have to do this!”  Abraham believed in a promise and that belief lead to action.  A doubter would have been accompanied by inaction.  But Abraham had faith in the One who had made the promise, so a response was required. 

 

And that response was to glorify God, and to put confidence in promises even though the bodies performing the action were hopeless.

 

All of this very uncomfortable analogy to say this:  If God has made a promise, the worst thing we can do is to doubt it; even if it is considered beyond belief, even if it sounds rediculous.  How about this promise: God declares you righteous!  You are free from every spot, blemish or stain of sin and unbelief!

 

-If you doubt this, you should doubt your doubt – Just as God miraculously brought to Abraham and Sarah a son, so He can Justify you even though there is no hope of it in yourself!

-If you doubt this, is it because you are in attack mode?  Prepared to introduce your own skepticism to reject God’s word?  When God’s word makes a clear command, “Do not commit adultery,” are you going to doubt it so you can live the way you want?  God is not mocked!  You will reap what to sow – sow to a righteous faith, and receive a righteous harvest!

-If you doubt this, are you prepared to dig further into God’s truth to read it for yourself so that you might meet those doubts with truth and belief?

-If you doubt this, Give glory to God for being a promise making and keeping God, and live as though the promise is true –do not doubt!

 

God makes promises to His people – some of those promises seem beyond belief.  But believers are asked to believe them, and a first step for the believer is to overcome doubt, simply start by embracing the hope that the promises are true.  It is more appropriate for the believer to respond, when told that God will redeem their life, to say, “O, I sure hope so!” rather than, “I doubt it!”

 

The danger of doubt is that it refuses to believe the promises of the Gospel, which is the very promise that brings meaning to life!

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